No two foods are more evocative of summer to me than garden-fresh tomatoes and sweet corn. Both fall into the category of “available all year round, but why bother?”. Tomatoes go from juicy, tangy, sweet, vibrant and pleasingly misshapen to pallid, mealy, flavorless, numbingly uniform globes. The sweet pop of kernels in freshly-picked corn becomes starchy mush in the off season. The out of season versions just don’t hold a candle to the real thing. Put them both together and it’s like summer in a bowl. The kind of fleeting pleasure to savor while it lasts and remember (or look forward to) fondly the other 10 months of the year.
Last Saturday at the farmers market, I saw a new (to me) vegetable: purslane. I’d heard of it a few times before, but only vaguely. I sampled a leaf and really liked the flavor: raw purslane has a pleasant crunch, not unlike the pod of a sugar snap pea. Its flavor is mild and spinach-like, but with a tart, lemony note; almost a milder sorrel. It was tasty and I’m a sucker for anything new or unusual; I had to pick it up.
These lentils are one of my standbys. They’re good cold in the summer, hot in the winter or room temperature any time. I usually make a big batch of these along with something else for dinner, then eat the leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. They go wonderfully with a salad for a light summer dinner or as a side dish for a heavier winter dinner. In short, they’re great no matter how you eat them. And when they’re cheap and easy on top of that…
Filed under: Salad, Side | Tags: basil, cabbage, lime, peanuts, purple beans, Thai
A week ago my dad gave me a bag of purple beans from his garden. My dad’s always grown purple beans, for as long as I can remember. It’s a bit out of character with the rest of his garden, really. Everything else he grows is very standard…beefsteak tomatoes, green bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini, spinach. But for whatever reason, he’s grown purple beans most years as far back as I can remember.
But purple beans have always been a disappointment to me. You see, they turn green when you cook them. Cooked, they’re pretty much indistinguishable from normal green beans. I can still remember the first time I saw my mom put a bowl of purple beans into the microwave and take out a bowl of green beans. I was pretty crushed. No exciting purple food for dinner…just the same old green beans. Once I got used to the idea, it was kinda fun to have color-change beans, but I never did entirely get over the disappointment of that first time.
I signed up for a CSA box this year, and I can’t quite decide if I like it or not. The quality of the produce has been (mostly) very high and I like the concept of supporting small local farmers, but I’ve found myself going to the farmers market less frequently because I have a fridge full of CSA produce at home and more importantly I miss getting to pick out my own produce. The mix in the CSA box just isn’t what I usually eat. There’s a lot of salad greens…and while I like salad, I think I’d have to eat it every day to keep up with the amount in the boxes. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I can support small, local, organic farmers by simply going to the farmers market and buying their produce there. And not paying for things I don’t particularly want.
But there are some pleasant surprises in the box every week. This week I was happy to see a few small heads of fennel. I’m a big fan of fennel and generally prefer to eat it raw, sliced thin and lightly dressed. I love its anise-y crunch, and I love serving it to people who are sure they won’t like it because they don’t like licorice. Fennel has such a wonderful, subtle, fresh flavor. Continue reading